Beer and cheese: St. Kilian's and Mondo Vino offer the perfect pairing

Hugh O'Neill, who owns St. Kilian's Cheese Shop with his wife, Ionah, always has interesting things to say, not just about food and drink (about which he knows plenty), but about life and beauty.

In fact, I'd consider him both a cheesemonger and a philosopher — a natural pairing, I think.

The other day, I stopped by to grab some cheese, but I wanted something local and wasn't quite sure what to get. Hugh recommended the Cabra Blanca from Avalanche Goat Dairy in Basalt, which he said was his favorite creamery in the state at the moment. He gave me a sample of the semi-soft, slightly aged goat's-milk cheese, and I could see why he was so impressed. It was subtle in flavor, and had a nice meaty texture and just the right touch of funk.

I bought a small hunk of it and a baguette, bid Hugh farewell and left St. Kilian's with some good cheese, some good bread and a good book recommendation to boot.

Naturally, I needed a beer to pair with my cheese, so I went next door to Mondo Vino with Hefeweizen on my mind. I have found that the style pairs especially well with younger goat's-milk cheeses, and I picked up a 22-ounce bomber bottle from Dry Dock Brewing.

Back home, I settled down with a plate of the cheese, the bread and a thinly sliced apple between them to brighten things up a bit. I poured a glass of the hazy, unfiltered golden-hued brew and kicked back. I've always been impressed by the beers at Dry Dock, and the Hefeweizen didn't disappoint. It was extremely quaffable, with strong notes of banana and tangy yeast. (I've never been able to figure out the exact meaning of the word "quaffable," but I always know it when it's there. The best way I can describe it is to say that the beer is breathable.)

The cheese was somewhat smoother at room temperature, and faintly reminiscent of a barnyard (in a good way), with a subtle yet pleasant fruitiness. It was certainly a remarkable cheese, and I wouldn't hazard a remark about many from Colorado, which is a sad thing to say, actually. Kudos to Wendy Mitchell, who started this up-and-coming creamery three years ago. I'm definitely looking forward to trying more from Avalanche Goat Dairy.

And the pairing of the two was spot on, if I do say so myself. The bubbly (traditionally a bit more so than other ales) weizen cut nicely into the rich texture of the cheese, and its effervescence played fizzy notes of citrus fruit in the nose, which harmonized well with the tanginess of the goat's milk. The matrimony of the beer and cheese unexpectedly gave birth to a hearty bread-like flavor, almost like sourdough, that neither had possessed on its own.

The combination turned out to be a meal in and of itself and was quite satisfying in its simplicity, both in its structure and its locality. For me, it is very comforting and natural to drink good beer and eat good cheese together, knowing that they came from good people close by, and yet another reminder of how cool it is to live in Colorado.

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